High Technology Aikido for Children
Chapter 3 - Fun Drilling and Motivational Ideas for Aikido for Children
John Sing (email@example.com)
August 30, 2001
This article is Chapter 3 in a three part series about Ken Ota
unique, successful, and innovative approach to teaching Aikido to
It is based on over 35 successful years of excellence in teaching
Judo, and Ballroom Dancing to both adults and children, using a
physical / emotional / psychological approach.
In this article, we'll examine in depth Ota Sensei's successful
and suggestions for increasing your fun and effectiveness in teaching
to Children, focusing on the topics of Fun Aikido Children's
Games, and Motivational Ideas.
This 3 part series discussed:
As always, no written article can truly capture the full flavor of
available. For more information, please take advantage of
Ota's open invitation to call or visit him at anytime He would
to share with you what he has learned so that you may enhance your own
Aikido, ukemi, and ability to teach Aikido to children.
Fundamental ways to keep children's interest (Flow, Tempo
Importance of teaching and focusing on great ukemi as first priority,
philosophy, tools and drills to teach great ukemi
Warm-up games and drills
Teaching children through their bodies with a minimum of talking
Backleading the basic 8 techniques
Discipline and safety guidelines, games, and suggestions
Safe randori for advanced children
Cool down games
Role of adults as models and instructors
Kenji Ota Sensei
Goleta Aikido with Ki
Goleta, California 93117
(Note: each of the following
web pages have many Quicktime movies. Please allow time for
the movies to load. Click here to go to
the Quicktime Player download website.)
Q: Sensei, what ideas do you have for the children to have
as much fun as possible while they are learning Aikido?
Ota Sensei: We really have to remember that
in a certain sense, we are in the entertainment business when we are
Aikido to Children. Children will learn fastest when they are
involved, really interested, really kept alert, when they are
So here are some of our non-traditional ideas for keeping the
interested in Aikido! We rely heavily on the use older students
primary helpers to help teach, and we do a large amount of drills as a
primary teaching vehicle. We tell the older students that "if
can't teach it to someone else, they don't know the technique
We also make sure we arrange special 'older children only' drills or
during the class as a reward for the help these students give to the
Here are some of the drills we use that are very fun for the Aikido
children. Many of the drills will be difficult to visualize
without seeing them in person or in motion video, but I've described
briefly here to give you a rudimentary idea of what's possible for you:
Practice each children's Basic 3/6/8 Aikido attack/defense, over and
with two ukes alternating attacking per one nage, until
ingrained. This keeps more children busy at the same time, keeps
the pace and energy higher, children learn a rudimentary feeling of
and the older children in each group get to practice teaching and help
move the class progress along.
We reward the older helper students in the form of additional drills
are only for them, such as 'Two-on-one randori' drills, more advanced
just for them (we use this as motivation tool also as the lower belts
rest, and get motivated by the higher belt's skill)
We have created a variety of kotaegaeshi, tai-otoshi drills, including
hand / one finger / no hands (because you sometimes have things in
your hands or you for some reason cannot use both arms/hands)
'T pad 3x drill' - useful for techniques that open with
such as kotaegeshi. Basically, the idea is to do 3 attacks and 3
tenkans, on the 3d tenkan the student actually does the
This teaches motion, movement, agility, practices the tenkan
This is an excellent drill also for tai-otoshi and even a rudimentary
breakfall. We recommend doing this drill with landing pads for
uke as the child nage's speed will get up there quickly.
Line drills for repetition
One finger throws for timing, very essential for developing
centrifugal force and power in Aikido throws.
Spacing drills off of ikkyo (three iterations of the
3d hop is the throw) - this helps uke get the rhythm and timing
Push nage into back roll, followed by one of basic attacks, nage
Randori drills - we start slow,
build up; child only has to get out of the way and ukes take rolls
them as long as the child is moving properly. This teaches
to make quick decisions about Aikido movement and then go with
As the children get older, being able to move properly makes the
of the actual kokyunage and irimi throws very easy!
Q: I understand that you spend a full 40% of the class time
on Ukemi and Warmups/Body Conditioning Drills?
Ota Sensei: True! We purposely spend the first
of class on ukemi practice (for reasons outlined in chapter 1 of this
and we spend the next 20% of the class on warmup drills.
reason for such a large amount of ukemi and warmup drills is that we
we have a great deal of kid energy that we must channel and
as well we need to build up their agility, body control, strength, and
endurance. By doing these first, we burn off the excess kid
and they are then tired enough to be calm and relaxed, and then they
easily focus their minds on their bodies. Amazing, isn't it?
The warmup and conditioning drills that we do are specifically
to teach various Aikido and body strengthening skills. Here are
of the many games that we give our children to do in this segment of
Fun Aikido Warmup Drills for Children
A sampling of tools and Aikido techniques using the length of the mat
children to do:
Hopping and Skipping (both forward and backward)
Turning drills (ude-furi-choyaku-undo)
Stone crawls (very important to develop the skills and
for children to extricate themselves if they're on the ground and
child jumps on top of them)
Lobster crawls (very important to develop the skills and
for children to extricate themselves if they're on the ground and
child jumps on top of them)
Elephant walks (squats)
Frog hops (develops leg strength)
Samurai walks (shikko)
Fun Body Conditioning Drills for Children
A sampling of tools and conditioning exercises for children to do
moving on the mat:
Leg-overs (preps them for backward rolls)
Frog hops (jumping squats, builds their legs for doing ukemi
Mountain climbers, bicycles, jumping jacks (for foot agility
Grasshopper jumps (it's a jumping into a near handstand but
going over, builds upper body strength and sense of balance while
Double helicopters (like leg raises or leg splits but with
going at same time. For upper belt children, the arms'
must go perpendicular to the legs' direction, which really challenges
minds to develop new neural pathways in terms of body movement)
Dance steps: That's right, dance steps. Play a
tune and at the far end, the child must do repetitions of a dance step.
We recommend samba tunes because they are easiest to get and
fast to challenge the children. We do this not only for fun
but because it teaches rhythm, timing, footwork, balance, speed, grace,
etc. Children get extra points for staying on beat. The
love this challenge!
Fun Children Aikido Games
Good ukemi is really a prerequisite for playing many of these games at
a level of speed:
Follow the leader (for any footwork, ukemi, whatever you
when their ukemi skill is high enough and you can go fast, this is a
motivating tool for both kids and parents alike. Use front and
rolls, airfalls, side slap, full body, kickout, and roll sideways
(this is essential to avoid gun attacks)
Mirror games: feet, tenkans, follow the feet,
Back and Forth - a pair of students alternate attacking and
(it gets interesting remembering who is who!)
Throw the Circle - form a circle. First student starts
the circle throwing each of the others. Can get multiple children
going around the circle to maximize time efficiency. Builds
First One To Eight - do relay races wherethe race is to see
team of students can complete 8 repetitions of one of the Aikido
the fastest. This teaches repetition, rhythm, timing, relaxation,
How Many Can You Do in 1 Minute? - same as 'First One To
except now we're counting to see who can get the highest number of
but quick repetitions. Really requires lots of good ukes (who get
tons of ukemi practice in the meantime!)
Ota Sensei: We also cool them down afterwards, here are
fun Children Cool down Games to complete their children's energy:
All these games give the children opportunity to interact with each
in positive way (they are going to interact with each other anyway),
gets the maximum drilling and conditioning done in the minimum amount
time. This is the purpose of the warmup games.
Four Corners Sumo Wrestling - object is to
to the ground or move partner out of the 'four corners'
Back to Back
small kids vs. one older kid - older child is responsible for their
to teach the smaller ones to work together to pin the older child
Q: What do you mean by "Appointing the older children as
Ota Sensei: We always nominate older children (who
mature enough and ready) to be 'Team Captains' to monitor and teach and
monitor two other younger children, the older children are the ones
'qualify when ready' for the 'honor' of being the team captain.
reward them with special drills and techniques just for them.
importantly, for many older children it is the first time that they
they are capable of responsibility and leadership, and they quickly
out how capable they are compared to their younger classmates.
The team captain is a title that is earned, so there will always be
some older kids that are not ready; but because they quickly will
find out that they need to earn the right, they will push themselves to
earn the right to be a team captain. All the older children learn
to be a role models for the younger childrer, in this way you have them
as your helpers to keept the younger children in practice safely,
in order, and become good students.
Q: What are these Fun Warmup Relay Race Games that you use
Motivation, Teamwork, and Leadership?
Ota Sensei: We use friendly, properly regulated,
warmup games in Aikido Children's classes after we finish ukemi
These games serve as an excellent teaching tool for Aikido basics like
rolling and hopping, and provide body conditioning for the
Most importantly, the warmup games burn off excess child energy so they
can be present and calm enough to enjoy learning Aikido techniques.
The following benefits are derived from using warmup relay races:
It is unfortunate that competition has a bad name in our society,
as it pertains to children's education. For this reason, and also
because O'Sensei clearly prohibited competition in Aikido, there is
resistance to competition in any way within Aikido. We understand
Teach basic skills (ukemi), start low, slowly build up so your body /
/ arms / etc. all learn how / when to do it right
Develop their bodies and coordination (exercises)
Teach children to become a leaders, teach humility, being a model for
Teach healthy motivation
Value of hard work
Value of Recognition
Value of Teamwork
Value of Leadership
However, Ota Sensei suggests that in the specific case of warmup
race games, the spirit of healthy fair competition is usable and
in teaching life lessons to children. To maintain fairness and
these objectives, we use a very specific handicapping system in the
relay races. This handicapping system transforms the warmup relay race
games into a superior tool for teaching healthy self-confidence
and independence; it teaches the children to let go of ego.
Ota Sensei believes the relay race warmup games are in no way in
with the concept of non-competition for Aikido, because the games are
about competing with the Aikido techniques.
Q: So you use a Handicapping System in Warmup Relay
to eliminate the downsides of competition among the children?
Ota Sensei: Absolutely. Our 'handicapping
system' in the warmup relay races are the essential key element
that makes the relay races useful by continually equalizing the teams
their chances to win.
In this way, no child's ego hurt by too much losing, nor is anyone's
ego inflated by overconfidence of winning. Children learn that
warmup games are not about who is 'stronger, faster, weaker,
Rather, they know that if they work really hard, they all have an
equal chance to win a reward. The best team doesn't always win
some cases, by design of the instructors). Strong, fast
need to learn that life is like this. Small, less coordinated
sometimes win, IF they work really hard up to the level of their
This promotes a healthy self-confidence and image in all. The
small reward is not the prize, of course, it is the
that motivates the children. These important life lessons are the
real gifts that we are trying to give our children, and we're just
Aikido as a tool. For many children, this is a
missing from the rest of their lives in school , elsewhere on the
or even in competing with their brothers and sisters for attention from
Q: How would I run a Aikido Children's Warmup Relay Races
Ota Sensei: I realize the following discussion is going to
be difficult to follow without seeing it in action. Regardless, I
document it here for you and future generations to know what it is that
we do, how we do it, and how you could do it for
Here are the steps:
Here is a copy of the scoresheet, you can see how the games evolve:
Count the number of children and divide 3. 3 is optimum number of
children per team. This will give you the number of teams and the
number of 'team captains' that you need.
Select senior children as 'team captains', and call them to line up in
the front of the dojo.
The team captains then select, one by one, the members of their
Children learn about selection processes, how it feels to choose and be
chosen, learn about how others are perceiving them.
These senior children learn to be leaders, they are the model and are
for helping the younger children on their team, as well as keeping them
The teams then line up, and the instructor calls out the first
Example of the first race call: "forward rolls to the end of the
mat, then 20 pushups, then forward rolls back".
A scorekeeper (an adult or senior child who is not participating -
the instructor using a notepad and pencil) writes down the name of each
team captain and prepares to keep score.
Each team sends one of it's members to the opposite end of the mat, to
hold each adjacent team accountable to the proper
of exercises at the far end,. Everyone learns to play fair, and
children even learn to count. The teams must stay
as the 'counter' must exchange places with other members of
/ her team as the race progresses.
The instructor calls out, "On your mark, get set,
The relay races are on!
The 'relay race' naturally motivates the children in ways you would not
believe! They do more exercise in shorter time than you could
imagine because they are competing in a healthy way.
As each team completes it's relay, they race up to the shomen
report in to the scorekeeper (a adult who is assisting the
using a notepad and pencil) who records who finished in what order.
The instructor then calls out the next relay race. Example:
"back rolls, then 'xx' situps, then backward rolls back". The
repetitions , however, is a different amount for each team, to
equal ability for each team to compete. The number
repetitions is computed as follows (it's the scorekeepers job to track
Let's take an example. If there are 7 teams of 3, then whoever
first in the previous race, needs to do 70 repetitions; the 2nd
team needs to do 60; 3d place needs to do 50; 4th place does 40;
As you can tell the last place team in previous race only needs to do
repetitions, so they'll finish much faster and thus everyone knows that
has an equal chance to compete. Cool, eh?
competing against yourself, .... so many positive lessons can come from
this simple repetition modification.
Remember, the teams send one of their members to opposite end of mat to
an adjacent team. Since all 3 team members have to race, the team
captains have to remind their team to switch the counters. This
little complication also keeps the children on their toes and keeps
Depending on the exercise, sometimes you divide the repetitions in half
because the exercise would be too difficult otherwise.
A team gets bonus points if they do a exercise really well, and loses
if they are talking or messing around when they're not racing
This process is repeated, usually we do 4 relays or so.
As the warmup races continue, the children get their blood moving,
loosened, and most importantly, their excess kid energy gets channeled
into positive body conditioning , self motivation and practice of
fundamental Aikido or judo skills
We constantly remind all team members to support their other team
this develops teamwork
Once the races are complete, the children move on to Aikido techniques.
We don't announce any results until the end of class, so there is
to brag about during the rest of class
Only at the end of class, at closing, do we announce the winning team
the losing team. The winning team gets a Coke or other
small reward, (it's only about the recognition and recognizing that in
life, there is great value to challenging yourself to be the best you
be!). The winning team also gets to tell the losing team what
they have to do around the room (it's not about punishment, it's about
recognizing the realities of life and motivating children to do their
so they are less likely to be the last place team).
As a final kicker, a team member who brought another child guest gets
bonus points per guest. That's a big amount, and really helps
encourage their friends to come to class. (again, just
the children about real life)
Q: So the purpose of the warmup relay games is to develop
children's healthy self confidence, without ego?
Ota Sensei : That's right. All these
games, including the healthy, regulated warmup games with fair
are vital to help the children experience and develop a healthy self
without ego; to prepare them for the realities of life as an
child, a teenager, as an adult..
Because of the handicapping systems, the relay games become a
tool to help the child learn to compete with the child's self.
games encourage them to be the best that they can be.... and not
to be better than someone else. When children start to
that they are the only ones that hurt their own chances... and that
of them are the responsible ones for helping their team........... then
we have given them a powerful tool to determine their own
We have given them an experience of competing and winning in a
and honest manner.
Properly done, these warmup games are especially beneficial to young
females: it helps them develop their independent spirits and be
to take care of themselves, to realize their own potential , develop
own self-confidence, to see that their gender does not in any way limit
them from achieving their potential.
Children learn leadership, learn to support and interact with their
teammates and their friendly competitors in a positive manner. Friendly
competition, properly applied, results in children interacting with
other and highly motivating each other in natural ways that cannot be
sole by teachers.
Q: Sensei, please tell me about your highly modified
Belt System used for further Motivation?
Ota Sensei: The best motivation for children is when
see other children their own age doing things that are good. In a
healthy way, this subtle competition invokes their internal desire to
Here's a copy of the the yellow/orange belt level:
One of the strongest motivator for children is accurate
(false recognition is of course recognized by children as exactly that,
they themselves know if they deserve the skill level that they're being
awarded). To achieve accurate recognition, and to
sure that every child gets recognition no matter how well he does on
tests, we provide many levels of multi-color
with many levels, so that children always advance in true
to their skills, and instructors have many degrees of granularity to
give children accurate feedback on how they're progressing.
Children are thus always motivated and can see their own progress
All of these principles could be adult-ized for your regular classes
Q: Finally, what do you see is the true role of Adults and
the older child students?
Ota Sensei : We specifically trains adults and
belts to be very effective as one-on-one teachers to the lower
I believe that if you can't teach a technique quickly, kindly, and
to a lower belt, then you don't yet know it yourself.
Therefore, in all classes, the senior students are charged to go find a
lower belt to teach. This raises the overall skill of the dojo as
quickly as possible.
If the technique is particularly new or difficult, sometimes I will
have the upper belts practice with each other so that they get the
down and have some good practice among themselves before teaching the
belts. Or, as a reward to the upper belts, after teaching the
belts, I have the lower belts sit and put the upper belts
practice between themselves. This is very motivational
for all involved and a reward, recognition, and better hard practice
the upper belts.
Emphasize upper belts finding a lower belt to teach one on one
This raises the overall level of the dojo's skill as quickly as possible
The upper belts really learn the techniques only when they can pass it
on to someone else!
Upper belts gain confidence that they are capable, receive recognition
for their skill, and are able to enjoy the responsibility of
Upper belts are rewarded with extra work, practice time, and this
the lower belts
Q: Sensei, certainly some very interesting, entertaining, and
ideas. What final thoughts would you like to leave us with
concerning teaching Aikido to Children?
Ota Sensei: In summary, I see the role
of of all of us as Aikido children teachers and senior children
as being in the most beautiful role of human life: giving back to
the younger ones the same gifts and lessons that were given to
In this way we pass on and improve our human race in the most generous
As teachers of Aikido Children, we should keep in mind these final
Always set a lively, interesting, kind tone, pace, and variety for the
Give interesting, parental 'lectures' as necessary to pass on the
that we ourselves have learned
Give the children the skills and experiences that Aikido can give them
using the technology we've discussed in these articles
Lovingly, kindly, and with parental guidance, let the children's energy
play and learn at the same time, giving them the proper balance between
being stern, disciplined, and the fun and wonder of allowing them to be
Give them enough safe repetitions, drills, and teachings to develop
'fast twitch' muscle memory, rhythm, timing, relaxed Aikido power for
Summary: Aikido for Children
Aikido for Children, specifically tuned through advanced high
methodology and innovative drilling, is a beautiful tool to teach life
skills to children. Children properly taught and highly motivated
at this young age will naturally develop great Aikido at the same time.
We hope you have enjoyed this documentary three part series on
unique teaching philsophy and ideas of Ken Ota Sensei for teaching
to Children. Be sure to see Part
1 and Part
2 of this series if you missed them.
We owe it to our children to not only give them Aikido philosophy,
also the true Aikido ability to be able to appropriately, wisely,
and powerfully use Aikido for real on the playground or in real life
situations if they ever need to.
Some of the ideas in this article may seem quite a bit out of the
However, we suggest that the world our children are growing up in has
changed, but education and teaching methods haven't necessarily changed
with it. Therefore, as parents or as role models, we need to be
to new and bold, effective ideas. In over 35 years of
Ken Ota's methods have graduated over 30,000 students. We offer
ideas and methods here for your enjoyment and use.
Aikido is a powerful tool for all of us is to develop the ATTITUDE
self-confidence with kindness, power with gentleness, speed with
To give to our children the ability to see, learn, and do Aikido in
spirit and relationship will be a gift for their lifetimes.
For more information, please take advantage of Ota's
to call or visit him at anytime. He would love to share with you
what he has learned so that you may enhance your own Aikido, ukemi, and
ability to teach Aikido to children:
Kenji Ota Sensei
Goleta Aikido with Ki
Goleta, California 93117
of us in
Goleta Aikido with Ki, Thank You for visiting this article.
(Ken Ota is seated in the front row on the left, with his wife Miye
to his left).
Article written by:
August 1, 2001
Where to buy gymnastics Pads and Barriers
You can get the kind of gymnastics landing pads and jumping barriers
we use from:
Athletic, Inc. - Mats - http://www.americanathletic.com/matspadding.html
Athletic, Inc. - 'Action Shapes' -